Why are doctors frustrated with the digitalisation of healthcare?

Anna Tamasi|15th February 2016

Today, everything we do is done on a digital device; we attach devices to our bodies, we equip our homes with smart devices, we pay with our phones, we speak to our doctor over Skype, we diagnose ourselves using a mobile health app. When a new technology comes out, we simply adapt. And we can adapt because we have a choice about whether we’ll use it or not – there is no one making us use particular apps or devices.

In healthcare, it’s different. It’s not a consumer-driven market where we can assume that patient-centred innovations will automatically influence adoption within doctor communities. Pharma companies should consider the challenges doctors face with new technology if they want to make a positive impact on the lives of their customers.

In this article, Customer Experience Consultant Anna Tamasi highlights the most common usability and user experience implications that the digitalisation of healthcare poses on doctors professional lives.

 Processes that do not consider adoption models

With the low number of healthcare workers available for our growing needs, healthcare remains a suppliers' market where primary care computing suppliers have a significant effect on the delivery of information and information systems.

We normally assume that doctors are happily using digital tools and willing to receive data feeds from their patients or engage with digital services. But for doctors to embrace new ways and new tools of clinical care, new technology implementations have to hold a clear value proposition.

According to the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), technologies that are both perceived to be useful and easy-to-use are more likely to be adopted. When you use something that actually works and makes your life easier, you’ll stick to it. If it doesn’t do any good for you, you’ll most likely ditch it.

So then why are doctors getting frustrated with the digitalisation of healthcare when we know that they are increasingly willing to engage with apps and see the benefits of the clinically relevant data that these produce? We always hear about the latest innovations that come with the promise of making things easier for doctors and patients.

Technologies that do not meet doctors’ needs

Doctors are frustrated by the poor usability of most digital tools, and have difficulty getting measurable results out of them when these are designed without considering their real needs and the context of use. And if they are frustrated, it will affect their work, which will eventually result in a negative impact on the patient experience.

There are several studies that have explored the impact on electronic data systems on emergency physicians, finding that doctors spent more time on data entry than any other activity, including direct patient care! All of this has a significant impact on their engagement with patients, as most practicing physicians discover that these products are not always developed with the provider-patient workflow in mind, and therefore, offer a user experience that is far from optimal. 

Infrastructure and security issues that influence convenience 

One common problem is when information is not properly organized or formatted to fit the way doctors think or to support clinical decision-making processes. Many times, extra steps are added to common clinical tasks, so the physical and cognitive workload of clinical practice is increased.

Additionally, Electronic Health Records are hard to use. Many doctors complain of spending several extra hours each day entering data to EHRs. In some practices, medical scribes have been brought in to help with data entry. The fastest growing specialty in healthcare is scribes to feed the EHR!

Another major issue is that none of the hundreds of major systems on the market can effectively interoperate. As doctors work in different hospitals and in various settings, this will mean duplication of tasks and data entry. It also raises questions about exchanging patient data securely between the systems.

In many developed countries, the internet is still not accepted as an instrument of healthcare. Hospitals often have weak WiFi systems, so doctors can’t always access online content. And while the use of mobile health devices, telehealth platforms, and mobile apps is steadily rising in the medical sector, physicians may not fully trust mobile health apps due to their lack of reliability and security.

The negative effects of poorly implemented digital products and services on doctors’ lives:

  • A decrease in doctors’ efficiency and productivity due to cognitive overload and time spent entering data, and the fact that most systems do not enable rapid switching between patient and data entry.
  • A decrease in the time and attention available to devote to each patient. Most products do not consider innovative visualisation and integration of data to assist in providing superior medical services to patients while minimising the workload of medical personnel.
  • Less fulfilling work content and degradation of clinical documentation. Most systems do not allow for the delegation of appropriate responsibility to other members of the medical team, nor provide alternate methods of data entry to conform to the way different healthcare workers work.
  • Clinician fatigue and workarounds, which can increase the risk of adverse events, resulting in the negative impact on patient safety or experience.

Designing HCP tools and services is not as straightforward as developing an app for the latest technology. In order to gain the support of the healthcare workers who use the tools and services, it is critical that we consider who uses the tool and how they work. 

By gaining customer insight and understanding, their actual pain points, and opportunities to improve their efficiency (and thereby the outcomes of their patients), pharma and healthcare innovators will be in a great position to bring innovation into their customers’ lives.


Download "Back to Basics: Creating digital services for pharma" to read more about designing digital services that work.

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